Friday, April 17, 2009

Letter to Mr. Richard Boucher

April 17th, 2009

Phone: 202.736-4325
Fax: 202. 736.4333

Richard Boucher
Assistant Secretary Bureau of South & Central Asian Affairs
SCA/FO 6254
Harry S. Truman Building
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Sir,

We are writing as members of Sri Lankans for Peace, a US-based organization which was formed to coordinate the work of the Sri Lankan diaspora in America to advance the cause of justice in Sri Lanka.

We read the press release from your office regarding your meeting, along with Ambassador Bake, with members of the American Tamil community. We were heartened to learn that you share our own interest in the humanitarian efforts being undertaken within Sri Lanka and our concern for the plight of civilians still trapped in the 20 square mile no-fire zone established by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), and which is currently occupied by the LTTE.

We were very disturbed, therefore, by the hard stance taken by the US state department in the statement issued on 16th April 2009 on Sri Lanka, that called for an immediate cessation to the rescue operations conducted by the SL Army. It is puzzling as to why the US State Department believes that the LTTE will allow the civilians to move out of the safe zone if the Government halts operations. It was clear during the 48 hour ceasefire that there was a remarkable drop in the number of civilians who could flee the no-fire zone. This is a fact verified in a statement issued by John Holmes, the United Nations’ Emergency Relief Coordinator in Sri Lanka, and included in today’s report in the NYT. It has also been discovered that the LTTE subjected civilians to immense hardships by
forcing them to build military fortifications during this ceasefire.

As the longest serving Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs within the State Department, we are certain that you have seen, first-hand, the way in which information can be mishandled and misused by people who are invested in the proliferation of conflict. As Spokesman for the State Department under both Secretary Albright and Secretaries Powell and Rice, you must have been intimately familiar with the way inadequate, incorrect and, sadly, deliberately skewed, information lead to one of the most devastating foreign wars of our time which continues to wreak destruction in American and Iraqi families to this date. While the administration was predominantly at fault, we also place the blame on the shoulders of those members of the Iraqi diaspora here whose own self-interest and malicious propaganda added fuel to the conflagration.

As distinguished members of our own professional, academic and civic communities here, we are well aware of the power we have to shape the opinions of people who have never visited Sri Lanka. Rather than abuse that privilege, we consider it a sacred trust that we treat our fellow American citizens as well as our government as partners who deserve to hear the truth, even when that truth may not reflect well upon the government or the citizens of the country of our birth. We also take our responsibility as individuals who have the ability to assist Sri Lanka, both through our moral and financial support, very seriously. As such, we strive to obtain the most accurate, verifiable information from a variety of personal and non-governmental sources on the ground including information from former colleagues, family members and professionals deeply involved in relief efforts within the camps that are holding IDPs.

We are committed to being full participants in the ongoing discussions regarding Sri Lanka, and we humbly request that you meet with us at your earliest convenience to discuss the ways in which we might best assist you in your endeavor to participate as a positive force in the current crisis within Sri Lanka. We rest assured that you will be interested in offering parity of status to all foreign-born ethnic groups within the United States. Our own group consists of Sinhalese and Tamil citizens and guests of this country, a feature that speaks to our effort to be inclusive in our work here even as we seek to foster inclusive political solutions within Sri Lanka.

We look forward to your response.


Sri Lankans for Peace

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